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Extreme cold brings more water problems to Jackson, Mississippi; "boil water" notice in effect citywide

Winter storm hampers travel over holiday weekend
Powerful winter storm hampers travel over holiday weekend 03:08

Officials in Jackson, Mississippi, issued a citywide "boil water" notice on Christmas Day after water line breaks brought on by a powerful winter storm that brought frigid temperatures to much of the country. They had warned Saturday that the city's water system — which partially collapsed in late August — was experiencing "fluctuating" pressure levels.

"The system has lost pressure due to line breaks that have not been identified. These breaks are likely caused by the weather. Water crews are actively trying to find these breaks in order to repair them as quickly as possible," the city said in a statement Sunday.

"Some areas may be experiencing very low pressure. We will continue to work to maximize production at the plants to restore pressure to as much of the system as possible. Even if your pressure is restored, the boil water notice remains in effect until further notice." 

The city said water distribution sites were being set up for those in need.

Leading up to the arctic blast that brought dangerously cold weather to Jackson, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba warned that the city's water distribution system remained a "huge vulnerability."

Water Woes in Mississippi
The City of Jackson's O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Facility's sedimentation basins in Ridgeland, Miss., Sept. 2, 2022.  Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Jackson has had water problems for decades. In late August, most of the city lost running water for several days after heavy rainfall exacerbated problems at the city's main water treatment plant. When that happened, Jackson had already been under a boil-water advisory for a month because health inspectors had found cloudy water that could make people ill. Hundreds of National Guard members were called in to help with water distribution, schools and businesses were shuttered, and residents were told to shower with their mouths closed because the water was not safe. 

That boil-water advisory was lifted in mid-September. That same month, the EPA announced that it had launched a review of the Jackson water crisis, which FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell had described to CBS News at the time as an "absolutely tragic situation."

The federal government has committed $600 million to help repair the city's water system — a project that the mayor has said could cost billions of dollars. The funding is included in a $1.7 trillion federal spending bill that the Senate and House approved last week.

Last month, a judge approved a request from the Justice Department to appoint a third-party manager for Jackson's water system. 

In late October, the EPA also announced it was investigating whether Mississippi state agencies have discriminated against Jackson by refusing to fund water system improvements in the city of 150,000, where more than 80% of residents are Black and about a quarter of the population lives in poverty.

In February 2021, tens of thousands of Jackson residents were left without running water for days after pipes froze. 

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